I once witnessed a rather nasty car accident. It was a busy intersection with four lanes of traffic plus left and right turn lanes in all four directions. The control lights had just completed a red/green switchover. A few cars ahead of me started to accelerate into the intersection. Out of the corner of my eye, off to the right, I saw a fast moving vehicle and quickly calculated that the car wasn’t going to slow down enough to avoid a collision. Sure enough, that and the first vehicle from my lane did collide. If you’ve ever been in or witnessed a vehicle accident close up, you’re familiar with that violent sound of crushing metal, plastic, and glass, and the screeching of tires as they are forced across the roadway in the wrong direction.
I parked my vehicle and jumped out to assist who I judged to be the worst-off of the victims—the red-light runner. Sadly, it was an older woman who had no idea what had just happened. She was oblivious to her mistake. I was thankful that she had no apparent major injuries so I did my best to comfort her until medical assistance arrived.
On rare occasions, we miss what’s right in front of us. We miss the red light that announces, “Stop!” Well, we hope these are rare occasions. When we do miss them, we’ve got cleanup work to do and part of the cleanup is learning from the mistake so it doesn’t happen again.
Because the warning signals for these events are so clear, a bright red light, we usually don’t make the same mistake twice.
It’s more likely, though, that we are too focused straight ahead and miss the fast approaching vehicle off to the side. Some form of a blinder has prevented us from seeing important factors and the price we pay for the resulting crash can be very heavy. Those blinders can be mental, or emotional, and they can even be spiritual in nature.
Once Jesus and his disciples were relaxing in a home and many tax collectors and sinners had joined them. Was it a party? Was it a teaching session? We don’t really know, but the Jewish leaders, known as Pharisees, were not happy about this gathering. They asked, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?”
The Pharisees had spiritual blinders on. All their lives they had focused on the Law of Moses and how to live righteous lives. They had the entire Pentateuch and various rule books memorized. They debated day and night about how to live and avoid the wrath of God. So when they came across those who were willfully sinning, they had no time for them. They weren’t worth a moment’s thought.
So they were indignant that Jesus, a recognized rabbi, a spiritual teacher, would waste his time with these sinners.
However, they had missed the point. They had spiritual blinders on. When they asked, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus responded:
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.
For all their work to learn God’s Word, they missed the point that people, all people, are separated from The Lord God Almighty and need a way of redemption to restore fellowship with Him. Even tax collectors and sinners. Especially tax collectors and sinners.
(You can find this story in three Gospels: Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32.)
As leaders, it is too easy to slip on mental, emotional, and spiritual blinders.
Mentally, it’s too easy to get into habits of thinking and decision making that don’t recognize uniquenesses of situations and the need for new approaches.
Instead, we need to exercise critical thinking and assess each situation with appropriate care and consideration.
Emotionally, it’s too easy to put up the emotional guards and play it safe when working with your team members. They express a personal concern, and you respond with, “Oh, I’m sure that’s difficult. I hope that situation improves.”
Instead, we need to put down our guards, be emotionally vulnerable ourselves and develop true concern for this person and their cares in life. It’s good to set aside the 1:1 meeting agenda and talk about a tough family situation.
Spiritually, it’s too easy to forget that this person in front of you is loved by God the Father. It’s easier to treat him just as a coworker who has a job to do.
Instead, pray for your coworkers, especially your boss and your company’s senior leaders. Ask God to show you how to love them as a neighbor, to respect their authority, and to lead with and for them with a servant heart.
Be careful of your blinders. We all have them. They slip on automatically and we have to work to pull them off.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.